Lead Line — September 2000
Lead Line — September 2000
By Richard Thiel

I have a boat that cries out to be built.
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Despite the stories PMY has devoted to custom boat construction over the years, I’ve never been able to understand why anyone would invest all that time, money, and hassle to have a boat designed and built just for them. Today you can buy just about any kind of boat you can imagine from production builders all over the world, many of whom let you choose gear, fabrics, and finishes. I never could see what’s to be gained in building a one-off.

Until a few months ago. For some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted to build–or rather, have built–a boat I had designed myself. I am fully aware this is madness and trust I shall recover my senses before I begin writing checks, but for now, I am convinced I have conceived a unique boat that cries out to be built.

Sound conceited? I suppose it is, but then hubris is often the engine that drives such endeavors. Truth is, I didn’t come to this place entirely on my own. I was inspired by three people. One was Patience Wales, longtime editor of Sail, who just finished having her own boat built (which she owns with partners). Patience and I are both boating magazine editors, but she is a woman. Surely if a woman can build a custom boat, I can.

My second inspiration is George Sass, Sr., of whom I wrote in this column in May. George’s custom project, Sawdust, is now a reality, and as you read this, he is no doubt anchored aboard her, enjoying the hell out of life, when he should be at work at his ad agency. Now George is a pretty bright guy, but he’s no boating magazine editor. If an ad man can build a custom boat, surely I can.

But the man who is really to blame for my condition is Tom Fexas, whose job, you could say, is getting people into such fixes. In 1994 Tom conceived a boat that would eliminate a lot of the stuff that in his mind makes boats complicated, expensive, and difficult. She was to be 42 feet overall, cruise at 22 knots, and have as few systems as possible. The minute I read about this boat, I started a file labeled "The Simple Boat," and I’ve been stuffing it full of ideas ever since. Now events, people, and a third midlife crisis may conspire to transform the contents of that file into my own simple boat.

Here’s my idea: a 36- to 38-footer big enough for four people to weekend aboard or two to spend a week on. Lobster-style, she’d have a plumb bow, big, glass-enclosed pilothouse, and moderate-size cockpit. She’d be built of cold-molded wood because–well, just because I like wood. She’d have an inside station (fear of melanoma) and be powered by a single 350- to 400-hp lightweight diesel, although I might consider a gasoline V-8. There’d be a bow thruster but no genset, just an inverter to power a microwave oven and TV, a medium-size refrigerator/freezer, dockside reverse-cycle air conditioning, and a propane stove.

Target range is 250 NM with a 10-percent reserve. As for electronics, I figure just a chartplotter, radar, VHF, and depthsounder–and of course, a killer stereo with multiple CD changer and an array of speakers.

Is the boat going to happen? Obviously I’m just in the early stages. I haven’t even got preliminary plans, though strangely enough I do have a yard in mind. I’m also missing the biggest piece of the puzzle: a budget. But one thing I do have is a passion to see this boat built and a newfound understanding of why people feel the need to create boats of their own conception and see them to reality.

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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